Various Artists

All backward-gazing compilations are exercises in nostalgia to some degree — but the best of the breed eschew sentimentality in favor of a more clear-eyed brand of affection. Exhibit A: Rocky Mountain Low, which captures the vitality, humor and exuberance of a punk and post-punk scene that flourished in the shadows. Viewed objectively, songs such as Dancing Assholes' "I Wanna Kill the President" aren't very good, and numbers by Front (featuring future Tommy Boy exec Steve Knutson) and Immortal Nightflames (co-starring blues axman Eddie Turner) hardly qualify as original. Yet like the strongest material here, including Cells' "Don't Change Your Mind" and Corvairs' "TV" (with its tribute to The Munsters), they contribute to an irresistible portrait of a period marked equally by alienation and naïveté.

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